Dayton considers special session

Published 2:54 pm Thursday, August 1, 2013

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton’s office confirmed Thursday it is in talks with Minnesota legislative leaders on a special session to provide disaster aid to communities hit by severe storms.

“The governor’s office has reached out to the four legislative leaders on a bipartisan agreement for a special session to pay the state’s share of disaster funding,” deputy chief of staff Bob Hume told The Associated Press.

Hume said no timetable has been set and that Dayton wouldn’t bring lawmakers back to St. Paul without a bipartisan agreement limiting the emergency session’s scope.

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President Barack Obama recently signed a federal declaration for 18 Minnesota counties hit by severe storms, high winds and flooding in June. It paves the way for federal aid for recovery and rebuilding efforts, but that must be partly matched by the state. The amount of money might amount to only a few million dollars, but legislative authorization could be needed to release it.

The counties covered by the declaration are Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin. The storms occurred between June 20 and 26.

Governors typically seek signed agreements before ordering special sessions to avoid turning them into free-for-alls.

That agreement could be hard to get because Republicans have been pressuring the governor to call a special session to repeal a controversial new warehousing tax. The tax doesn’t take hold until April, so Dayton has said it could be dealt with in next year’s regular session that begins in February. But Republican lawmakers have said that companies affected by the sales tax on warehouse rental space need more time to plan and could be discouraged by the tax from expanding.